Pentagram has designed a screen-free audio platform which puts kids in control

The Yoto Player — a connected speaker with a light-up smiley face — can play stories, music, radio and podcasts for children.

Pentagram has developed the industrial design and branding for the Yoto Player, an interactive screen-free audio player for children.

The project is a collaboration between Yoto’s co-founder and CEO Ben Drury, the company’s CCO Tom Ballhatchet and Pentagram’s London office.

The Yoto Player uses physical cards, in a similar way to a cassette player, but is also a connected speaker. The cards are divided into six categories: Stories, Music, Podcast, Activities, Sound Effects and Radio.

After cards have been purchased, children can listen to classic books like Peter Pan and also engage more modern listening habits, like with the Story Shed podcast, presented and updated regularly by a primary school teacher. Make Your Own cards can also be bought, which allows children to create and upload their own content.

The player — currently only available for pre-order — costs £79.99 while cards start from £1.99.


A children-focused design process

Pentagram partner and industrial designer Jon Marshall worked on the product design, following a month-long research-led process which involved interviewing families and children to understand their priorities. The aim was to “put children in control of their own experience,” Marshall says.

The most noticeable detail is Yoto’s face. On the speaker’s surface is a 16×16 pixel colour display which provides feedback and interactive content without being overly distracting.

Pentagram’s motion design team also tested the screen in an effort to “ensure a fluid animation”.

There are two ‘push and twist’ buttons, which allow playback and audio control. The device is battery powered and can be charged by a magnetic dock so that children can charge it by themselves safely.

Marshall tells Design Week that he is particularly proud of the way the two circular speakers have been integrated for “quality sound” into the five-sided shape. It is this ‘house’ shape that gives the player its “distinctive and recognisable identity”, Marshall says.

It also allows for a flexible positioning system: the player can be placed upright on a table or shelf or tipped back slightly when used on the floor. When the Yoto Player is turned on its face, a ‘bedtime mode’ is launched which puts the display to sleep and activates a nightlight.


An identity which works for the entire family

The visual identity — which includes logo, branding and digital elements — was created by Luke Powell and Jody Hudson-Powell, graphic design partners at London’s Pentagram office.

Jody Hudson-Powell tells Design Week that the aim was to create a visual language with “common ground”.

He says: “There’s a certain design language for kids’ stuff that’s aimed at ‘I’m a visual person parents’ but ultimately kids gravitate toward where they’re at. A plastic toy on the front of a magazine wins over an ergonomic toucan every time.

“We didn’t want to fall into the trap of being overly reductive for the sake of it feeling like ‘good design’.”

Yoto’s logomark — a smiling, friendly face — was refined, and the forms of the face now match the letterforms in the wordmark itself.

The colours also had to appeal to children and parents alike; the resulting “playful and modern” palette involves pastel pink, yellow, red, green and blue shades for the cards. The player itself is white with two red buttons.

As well as new colours, the cards were updated so that the icons are more easily identifiable for parents and children. Bespoke illustrations indicate the cards’ categories and can be found across all Yoto packaging.

Hudson-Powell says: “We paid attention to who the primary audience was at each moment. Packaging is equally parent and child, the app and web is parent, whereas the physical product had to appeal to parents but be delightful for kids.”

Colophon Foundry’s Castledown was used as the primary typeface. The font, which aims to help children learn to write by mimicking the action of drawing letters, was originally developed to unify typography at Castletown Primary School in Hastings.

“By dialling elements up and down, hopefully we were able to make each moment feel appropriate,” Hudson-Powell adds.

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